Statistically Speaking: Gophers Among National, Big Ten Leaders

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By Jeff Fett, Gopher Basketball Beat Reporter

The Gopher men's basketball team is halfway through the season, and the offense that was projected to be a strength before the season is one that is showing up on the stats sheets.

As a team, the Gophers appear in the top 50 out of 345 teams in the nation in several offensive categories right now. They have also lit up the stat sheet in a few areas on the defensive side as well.

*    Won-lost percentage: 83.3% (24th)
*    Final points: 45th
*    Scoring offense: 76.2 points per game (37th)
*    Scoring margin over opponents: 13.7 points per game (26th)
*    Field goal percentage: 47.1% (31st)
*    Rebound margin over opponents: 9.8 (4th)
*    Assists per game: 16.4 per game (18th)
*    Blocked shots per game: 6.4 per game (8th)
*    Steals per game: 9.6 per game (15th)
Go Gophers! Trevor Mbakwe
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Mbakwe has ruled the boards in the Big Ten.
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So far the Gophers are still in the early stages of the Big Ten season, but they are dominating in blocks per game, which they have done for the last five years. They are also tops in the conference in several other categories as seen below.

*    Blocked shots: 6.4 per game
*    Steals: 9.6 per game
*    Offensive rebounds: 16.0 per game
*    Offensive rebound percentage: 47.9%

Statistically, the Gophers have several players in the top 10 in the Big Ten individually, primarily led by senior forwards Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams. Sophomore guard Andre Hollins is also lighting up the stat sheet in several categories as well.

*    Scoring: Andre Hollins-14.3 points per game (10th)
*    Field goal percentage: Mbakwe- 58.3% (5th), Williams-53.1% (9th)
*    Assists: Andre Hollins-3.7 per game (9th)
*    Free throw percentage: Andre Holins-77.2% (10th)
*    Steals: Austin Hollins-2.1 steals per game (2nd), Joe Coleman-1.6 steals per game (9th)
*    3-point field goal percentage: Andre Hollins- 42.9% (5th), Austin Hollins-41.0% (10th)
*    3-point field goals made: Andre Hollins-2.0 per game (t-8th)
*    Blocked shots: Mbakwe-1.7 per game (3rd), Williams-1.4 (4th)
*    Rebounds: Mbakwe-8.2 per game (t-1st)
*    Offensive rebounds: Mbakwe-3.2 per game (1st), Williams 2.8 per game (2nd)
*    Defensive rebounds: Mbakwe-5.0 per game (6th)

In the conference-only standings, the Gophers top several statistical categories.
Team
*    3-point field goal percentage: 46.8%
*    Assists: 16.2 per game
*    Rebounding margin: 8.8 per game
*    Blocks: 6.0 per game
*    Offensive rebounds: 14.2 per game
*    Offensive rebounding percentage: 45.2%
Individual
*    Rebounds: Mbakwe-10.8 per game
*    Offensive rebounds: Mbakwe-4.4 per game
*    Defensive rebounds: Mbakwe-6.4 per game
*    3-point field goal percentage: Austin Hollins-59.3%
*    3-point field goals: Austin Hollins-3.2 per game

Sneak Peek: No. 9 Gophers vs. No. 5 Michigan

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Go Gophers! MN_IND
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This Thursday evening at the Barn marks one of the most anticipated match-ups in recent Gopher basketball history: No. 5 Michigan takes on No. 9 Minnesota in the first game between Top-10 ranked teams at Williams Arena since 1972 (not counting the vacated season of 1976-77). GopherSports.com's Jeff Fett gives us a quick look at the Wolverines.

Big Ten Preview: Michigan

Go Gophers! fans
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Thursday marks the first match-up of Top-10 teams at Williams Arena since 1977.
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Head Coach: John Beilein

Last Year's Big 10 Record: 13-5

This Year's Big 10 Record: 3-1 (Ws vs. Northwestern, Iowa, Nebraska; Loss at OSU).

Top 5 Leading Scorers: Trey Burke-18.0 ppg; Tim Hardaway Jr.-16.1 ppg; Nik Stauskas-12.7 ppg; Glenn Robinson III-12.3 ppg; Jordan Morgan-6.6 ppg.

Top 5 Leading Rebounders: Mitch McGary-5.4 rpg; Glenn Robinson III-5.8 rpg; Jordan Morgan-5.5 rpg; Tim Hardaway Jr.-5.4 rpg; Nik Stauskas-3.2 rpg.

Notable non-conference wins: Pittsburgh, Kansas State, N.C. State, Arkansas, West Virginia, Bradley

Notable non-conference losses: None

Outlook

This year's Michigan team is unlike ones in year's past. The Wolverines still rely on the 3-point ball, but not as much. Michigan also has much more athleticism. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke lead a team that hasn't lost a game this season. To make things worse for the other teams in the Big Ten, Michigan has a freshman class that's making a big impact right now. Power forwards Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and guard Nik Stauskas add depth and more athleticism to a team that already has an abundance of it. Michigan has played well against tough non-conference opponents. They've beat up on West Virginia and Kansas State, and handled N.C. State, who's been in the top 20 all season. The only slight weakness is how young this team is. Three of the Wolverines top six scorers are freshmen this season.

After being upset in the second round of the NCAA tournament last year, the question remains how much has Michigan learned from that experience. The Wolverines should be a strong contender for the Big Ten title this year and if everything falls just right, they should be in the hunt for a National Championship as well.

Sneak Peek: Gophers at Indiana

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Gopher Basketball is riding high - the Gophers have started the B1G season 3-0 and are 15-1 overall. Their No. 8 national ranking (AP Poll) is also the highest of the Tubby Smith era and best since the vacated 1996-97 season. The Gophers travel to Indiana Saturday morning for an epic conference showdown; GopherSports.com writer Jeff Fett takes an early look at the Hoosiers.

Big Ten Preview: Indiana

Head Coach: Tom Crean

Last Year's Big 10 Record: 11-7

This Year's Big 10 Record: 2-0 (wins over Iowa and Penn State)

Top 5 Leading Scorers: Cody Zeller-16.5 ppg; Victor Oladipo-13.3 ppg; Christian Watford-12.7 ppg; Will Sheehey-12.1 ppg; Jordan Hulls-11.1 ppg.    

Top 5 Leading Rebounders: Cody Zeller-7.9 rpg; Christian Watford-6.5 rpg; Victor Oladipo-5.9 rpg; Will Sheehey-4.1 rpg; Kevin Ferrell-3.3 rpg.

Notable non-conference wins: Georgia, Georgetown, North Carolina, North Dakota State

Notable non-conference losses: Butler

Outlook
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The Gophers went into Assembly Hall last season and took down the Hoosiers.
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Indiana has some big aspirations this season. Not only do they expect to battle for the Big Ten title, they are hungry for a national title this season.

Indiana has everything to expect for a team that could make a long run in the NCAA tournament. They have preseason player of the year in center Cody Zeller. They have solid power forwards in Christian Watford and Will Sheehey. They have an experienced backcourt in guards Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls.

Everything is there this season. The only thing stopping the Hoosiers is consistency on the defensive side of the ball. Head Coach Tom Crean has been preaching that to his team, and they have responded. They've only allowed 60 plus points in four contests this season.

Indiana doesn't have many holes in its lineup this season. Barring any major injuries, they should be a serious contender for the Big Ten title. It's also feasible to see them making a run to the final four and possibly the national championship game.
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Gopher Basketball Blog: A Peek at Illinois

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After a 2-0 start in the Big Ten, the No. 8-ranked Gopher men's basketball team takes to the road for their third conference match-up, Wednesday vs. No. 12 Illinois (8 p.m., Big Ten Network). GopherSports.com writer Jeff Fett gives fans a sneak peak at the Illini, who have started the season 14-2 (1-1 B1G).
Go Gophers! Trevor
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Trevor Mbakwe and the Gophers travel to Illinois Wednesday for a match-up with the No. 12 Illini.
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Big Ten Preview: Illinois

Head Coach: John Groce (1st season)

Last Year's Big 10 Record: 6-12

2012 Big Ten Record: 1-1 (W- Ohio State, L - Purdue)

Top 5 Leading Scorers: Brandon Paul-18.5 ppg; D.J. Richardson-10.6 ppg; Tracy Abrams-12.1 ppg; Tyler Griffey-8.7 ppg; Joseph Bertrand-9.3 ppg.

Top 5 Leading Rebounders: Brandon Paul-5.1 rpg; D.J. Richardson-4.7 rpg; Joseph Bertrand-4.5 rpg;  Nnanna Egwu-4.3 rpg; Tracy Abrams-3.9 rpg.

Notable non-conference wins: Butler, Georgia Tech, Gonzaga, Hawaii, Gardner-Webb

Notable non-conference losses: Missouri

Outlook:

Could this be the year Illinois finally grabs a Big Ten championship title? On paper, the Illini have everything going for them.

The Illini have a loaded backcourt. Seniors Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson and junior Joe Bertrand have led the way so far this season. The experience has led the Illini to just one loss in the non-conference season so far.

In the frontcourt, gone is Myers Leonard to the NBA draft, but the Illini have reloaded there. Seniors Sam McLaurin and Tyler Griffey have stepped up in Myers absence, and Nnanna Egwu is showing lots of promise in just his sophomore season.

Last season, Illinois had all of the pieces there as well, but stumbled down the stretch losing 12 out of their last 14 games. Head Coach Bruce Weber was fired, and Ohio Head Coach John Groce was brought into lead the team.

So far, the Illini have played consistent basketball this season. The only weakness this team appears to have is depth. They primarily have a seven-man rotation and in a grueling Big Ten season, one has to wonder if that will hold up come late February into March.

If early season success has anything to do with it, Illinois should be there at the end. The pieces are there for at least an NCAA tournament trip, if they can hold together will determine if they can grab a Big Ten championship.

Gopher Basketball Blog: A Peek at Northwestern

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Gophers vs. Northwestern: Click here to buy tickets!

The Big Ten conference season is underway. The Gophers opened with a win over Michigan State at Williams Arena. Up next is a date with Northwestern on Sunday, Jan. 6. The Wildcats open against No. 2 Michigan on Thursday, Jan. 3 at 6:00 p.m. on ESPN2. Gophersports.com men's basketball beat writer Jeff Fett takes a peak at Northwestern.

Big Ten Preview: Northwestern

Head Coach: Bill Carmody (Union College, '75)
Career Record: 280-220 (17th season)
Record at Northwestern: 188-195 (13th season)

Go Gophers! Trevor
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Trevor Mbakwe and the No. 9 Gophers host Northwestern Sunday at 6 p.m.
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2011-12 Big 10 Record: 8-10

Top Scorers: Reggie Hearn-14.5 ppg; Dave Sobolewski-11.3 ppg; Jared Swopshire-8.8 ppg; Alex Olah-7.2 ppg; Tre Demps-5.6 ppg.

Top Rebounders: Swopshire-6.0 rpg; Hearn-5.5 rpg; Olah-4.5 rpg;

Notable non-conference wins: TCU, Baylor, Illinois State

Notable non-conference losses: Maryland, Butler, Stanford

Outlook:

The biggest question for Northwestern is can they break the curse this year. Since the NCAA tournament started in 1939, they are the only team in a BCS conference to never have made a tournament appearance. They have also not won the Big Ten conference since 1933.

And so as the drought continues, there bid this year to get into the NCAA tournament took a big hit. Drew Crawford, who was second on the team in scoring and was an NBA draft prospect, is out for the year with a torn labrum.

Sophomore point guard Dave Sobolewski and senior point guard Alex Marcotullio will now have to step up to take bigger roles in the offense.

The Wildcats will also rely on their revamped frontcourt consisting of Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire, TCU transfer Nikola Cerina and freshman Alex Olah.

Northwestern is one of the toughest teams to predict this season. With nice non-conference wins over Baylor and Illinois State, the Wildcats have set themselves up nicely to start the Big Ten season. Expect the Wildcats to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. If they can make a run in the Big Ten tournament, they could make a strong case to make a bid for the NCAA tournament.

Gopher Basketball Blog: A Peek at Michigan State

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On Dec. 31, the Gophers open up the Big Ten season with #19 Michigan State at Williams Arena. In preparation for the conference opener, Gophersports.com basketball beat writer Jeff Fett will be doing previews of each of the teams in the conference.

Michigan State Spartans 

Head Coach: Tom Izzo (Northern Michigan, '77)
Record: 423-171 (18th season)
 

2012-13 Record: 11-2
2011-12 B1G Record:
13-5

Leading Scorers: Keith Appling-14.9 ppg; Gary Harris-12.4 ppg; Branden Dawson-9.8 ppg; Derrick Nix-8.8 ppg; Adreian Payne-8.7 ppg.    

Leading Rebounders: Nix-7.8 rpg; Payne-7.5 rpg; Dawson-6.2 rpg; Denzel Valentine-4.2 rpg; Appling-3.5 rpg. 

Notable non-conference wins: Kansas, Texas 

Notable non-conference losses: Connecticut, Miami (Fla.) 

Outlook: 

Michigan State has all of the tools to contend for yet another Big Ten title this season, and should be in the mix to make its usual run in the NCAA tournament. 

There is no question this team has talent. It's backcourt combination of Keith Appling and Gary Harris has been a strong point of the team so far. They are two of the team's leading scorers and know how to find the team's low post scorers as well.

Down in the post, Branden Dawson is back from an ACL injury and is playing well. Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne have also provided a formidable frontcourt. Nix is the reigning Big Ten Conference Player of the Week after his 25-point and 11-rebound performance against Texas. 

The Spartans have also shown that they are also deep, having used a nine-man rotation this season. 

Last season, All-American Draymond Green led the Spartans, for the most part night in and night out. One question for Michigan State entering the season was if it could find someone to take his role. Is that Appling or someone else? I think that is still up for debate. 

The Spartans have made 15-straight NCAA appearances so a 16th is almost a certainty.

Hoops Blog: Ten Days of Holiday Giving

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Go Gophers! MBB
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The Gopher men's basketball team will participate in a number of charitable activities in the community this holiday season.
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University of Minnesota Men's Basketball coach Tubby Smith always stresses to his players that giving back to the community is extremely important. The basketball players, as well as all of the Golden Gopher student athletes, are heavily involved in the community thanks to programs headed up by  Peyton Owens and Anissa Lightner in the Student-Athlete Affairs office here at the "U'.

Aside from that, Coach Smith, and the Tubby Smith Foundation, makes sure that giving back during the holiday season becomes a priority. This holiday season's theme will be "Ten Days of Holiday Giving". The schedule is below:

Day 1: Thursday, Dec. 13 - Donation of books to the Stillwater Public Library and its Holiday Children's Book Drive.

Day 2: Friday, Dec. 14 - Donation of children's winter jackets to the Minneapolis Salvation Army.

Day 3: Saturday, Dec. 15 - Donation of children's clothing for the Sabathani Community Center.

Day 4: Sunday, Dec. 16 - Donation of critical nursery needs to the Greater Minneapolis, Crises Nursery.

Day 5: Monday, Dec. 17 - Donation of children's clothing to Neighbors, Inc. as part of the Love Your Neighbor Holiday Program.

Day 6: Tuesday, Dec. 18 - Donation of children's clothing and baby supplies to People Serving People through the Holiday Helpers program.

Day 7: Wednesday, Dec. 19 - Donation of toys to KARE-11's Toys-4-Tots program.

Day 8: Thursday, Dec. 20 - Holiday shopping at Target for clothing for families of East Side Neighborhood Services.

Day 9: Friday, Dec. 21 - Donation of Wii video games to children at Amplatz Children's Hospital.

Day 10: Saturday, Dec. 22 - Donation of Self Care & Bath Kits to the Harriet Tubman Center.

The Tubby Smith Foundation's mission is to be a resource for children and charities that benefit children in the State of Minnesota, who demonstrate a need for financial assistance to improve their physical, mental, educational or overall well-being.

Gophers Tabbed No. 14 in AP Poll

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Go Gophers! Tubby Smith in the huddle
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This is Minnesota's highest ranking since 2010.
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At No. 14 in the nation, the Golden Gopher basketball team currently holds its highest AP poll ranking in Tubby Smith's tenure as head coach. Minnesota moved up from the No. 21 slot it was in last week. The Gophers also made their first appearance of the season in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll, checking in at No. 21.

The Gophers (8-1) entered the season outside the top 25, but earned respect of the voters after emerging from the Battle 4 Atlantis--arguably the toughest preseason tournament this year--with two wins and following up with a win at Florida State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Minnesota's highest ranking in the Smith era so far was 13th in the ESPN/USA Today poll on both Nov. 29, 2010, and Dec. 27, 2010.  The Gophers spent 12 straight weeks in the top-25 polls during the 2010-11 seasons.

Game Preview: Gophers Prepare for Duke in Battle 4 Atlantis

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Go Gophers! Battle4Atlantis
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CLICK HERE FOR GAME NOTES AND A FULL PREVIEW OF THURSDAY'S GAME

By Jeff Fett
GopherSports.com


Some big challenges are coming, but the Gopher men's basketball team appears to be coming together as they prepare for a tough stretch of games where they'll challenge some of NCAA basketball's elite.

The Gophers are off to a 4-0 start this year. So far, the Gophers have been dominant, with their closest game by 15 points. Head coach Tubby Smith says the team is starting to bond.

"I feel good about where we are as far as the play of our players. I felt good about it for the last few years. I just want to make sure we stay healthy," Smith said. " We have a very unselfish team and we're playing together."

While the Gophers haven't been challenged just yet, the first few games have helped the team gel with each other as they prepare to do battle with some of the nation's top programs.
Go Gophers! Commons
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Trevor Mbakwe and the Gophers take on Duke this Thanksgiving.
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The Gophers are hitting a stretch where starting Nov. 22 they will play eight games in their next two-and-a-half weeks.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, the Gophers will play in the Battle for Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. In their opening round game, the Gophers will take on #5 Duke.

The tournament also features 2012 NCAA tournament qualifiers in Missouri, Virginia Commonwealth University, Louisville and Memphis. Stanford and the University of Northern Iowa will also participate in the tournament.

The Gophers do not get much of a break after the weekend tournament. On Nov. 27, they will travel to Tallahassee to play Florida State. The game with the Seminoles is a part of the ACC/Big Ten challenge.

After a couple of home games, the Gophers go back on the road to Los Angles to face the University of Southern California Dec. 8.

The schedule gets a little easier after the Dec. 11 game against North Dakota State University. The Gophers do not play a game for 11 days.

Smith says he'd rather not take some of these long road trips after the tournament, but that's how the schedule falls.

"We'd rather not be going into these places to be honest with you, but that's how it fell with the ACC/Big Ten Challenge," Smith said. "It is compressing a lot of games in a short period of time. Unfortunately we have that issue with our academic calendar--so that's why were like that. We play one game in about 11 days. I don't think anybody else has that long a break in the country, so its a real challenge for us in the scheduling, so that's why you see us with so many games in such a short
period of time."

Blog: A Look at Minnesota's Opponent - Richmond Spiders

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On Sunday, Nov. 18, the Gophers take on the University of Richmond at Williams Arena at 6 p.m. The Spiders are 3-0 so far this year. Gophersports.com basketball beat writer Jeff Fett Spoke with Spiders Assistant Head Coach Kevin McGeehan to learn more about Richmond and what his concerns are about playing the Gophers.

Gophersports.com: Who's the star of your team---what will make this team succeed this year?

"Our best player is probably is Darien Brothers. He's a good shooter--like 6'2" or 6'3" strong guard. He really shoots well from three.

"We have a couple of guys who can score from the perimeter--we're a pretty good perimeter team. We have one returning big guy that's a very good player---a strong interior kid--and then a bunch of young kids who are going to be good players."

 Gophersports.com: What kind of style does your team play?

"We like to share the ball and move a lot. We do a lot of passing and cutting--keeping the court spread. We try to move a lot and take advantage of space. I think we share the ball pretty well."

Gophersports.com: Are your goals lots of possessions or are you methodical in how you handle the basketball?

"This year we've tried to make an emphasis of getting the ball up quick and trying to score quicker. We feel like we have good wing players that can run and make good decisions and score in transition, so we've kind of made that a point of emphasis."

Gophersports.com: What are your concerns about playing the Gophers?

"I think they are talented at every position. It seems to be that they have good depth right now---a lot of experience back. Anytime you play a Big Ten team in particular, you know there's going to be physicality playing there on the road. You have to be ready for all of that.

 "We've played a lot of teams through the years---big teams and in BCS conferences and I think that's one of the things you have to mentally prepare for as you go into a game, where you know all those guys are big and strong and physical and athletic. I think that's no exception with Minnesota being like that."

Gophersports.com: Richmond is taking on some tough teams on the road, like Minnesota, Kansas and Wake Forest. Why do you make your schedule this tough?

"I think the Atlantic 10 is a really good conference, you know arguably better than some of the big BCS conferences pending on the year. So game in and game out in the Atlantic 10 you are facing really good teams. There are very few bad teams and so in order to prepare for league play---and then hopefully we're thinking about the ultimate goal, the NCAA tournament, we're trying to play the best schedule we can. I think the best way to do that is to try to play some teams that are in that mix. Teams who are going to be tournament teams or really good teams in BCS leagues."

Gophersports.com: You are off to a great start at 3-0 on the year. Have their been any surprises you weren't expecting so far this year?

 "I wouldn't say surprises. I would say some of the things we've tried to emphasize you know in the off-season. We had a trip to Italy during the summer, which allowed us to practice and compete overseas.

 "Some of the things that we started to talk about and try to implement there and in practice have shown up in the games, which is a good sign. The things that are going to be points of emphasis are actually manifesting themselves in the games. I think that's a good thing.

"Surprises, not really at this point. You know we were hoping to come to Minnesota at 3-0 and that's where we are--so this is a really good test for us."

Gophersports.com: Is there anything else you want us to know about the Richmond basketball team or the University of Richmond?

 "Richmond has a very rich tradition basketball wise. Two years ago, we were in the Sweet 16. Going back to the 80's and parts of the 90's, Richmond has been really, really good at basketball.

 "I think it's a unique place and a special place because its an excellent academic institution where kids are going to class and working hard in the classroom--having to balance academic life and athletics.

 "You can concentrate more on basketball here. We're a small school and everything's hard and kids have to show up and go to class all of that stuff. So there's something unique and special about that in our guys representing themselves well in the classroom and on the court."